Data on biological mechanisms of aging are mostly obtained from cross-sectional study designs. An inherent disadvantage of this design is that inter-individual differences can mask small but biologically significant age-dependent changes. A serially sampled design (same individual at different time points) would overcome this problem but is often limited by the relatively small numbers of available paired samples and the statistics being used. To overcome these limitations, we have developed a new vector-based approach, termed three-component analysis, which incorporates temporal distance, signal intensity and variance into one single score for gene ranking and is combined with gene set enrichment analysis. We tested our method on a unique age-based sample set of human skin fibroblasts and combined genome-wide transcription, DNA methylation and histone methylation (H3K4me3 and H3K27me3) data. Importantly, our method can now for the first time demonstrate a clear age-dependent decrease in expression of genes coding for proteins involved in translation and ribosome function. Using analogies with data from lower organisms, we propose a model where age-dependent down-regulation of protein translation-related components contributes to extend human lifespan.
© The Author(s) 2015. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Nucleic Acids Research.